A freshwater fish unique to Lough Neagh is joining parmesan cheese and champagne in being awarded ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ (PDO) status under EU law.
The status is given only to those products which have a specific link to the region where the product comes from and is often seen as an indication of guaranteed quality.
The scheme means that, under EU law, you can’t call your wine champagne unless it’s from the champagne region of France.
Lough Neagh Pollan, a member of the salmon family, is to become the first product in Northern Ireland to meet the rigorous requirements after it was registered with the European Commission by the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society.
While the white fish is the first to meet the PDO requirements, Northern Ireland now has a total of four geographically protected food products.
New Season Comber Potatoes, Armagh Bramley Apples and Lough Neagh Eels have each been recognised as a Protected Food Name (PFN) under EU law.
Pat Close, chairman of the fisherman’s co-op, said: “The PDO accreditation is just reward for the fishermen of Lough Neagh who work diligently using sustainable, traditional fishing methods to maintain a viable future for the species and the industry.
“This accolade celebrates the authenticity and heritage of fishing for pollan on Lough Neagh as well as the unique characteristics of the species.”
Dr Derek Evans Project Leader within Freshwater Fisheries section of Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), said; “The listing of Lough Neagh Pollan... is wholly befitting for this very distinctive fish species.
“Lough Neagh Pollan are one of only a handful of fish species native to Ireland that have remained with us following the extinction impacts of Ice Ages. In science terms we call them a glacial relict, left over from the Saalian Ice Age (200,000 years ago), having lost their previous migratory behaviour as a consequence of sea temperature and salinity rises. Instead, the Pollan became restricted to the temperate freshwaters of Lough Neagh, leaving behind its closest relatives like the Arctic Omul and other members of the Cisco whitefish family.”